While both presidential campaigns were trying to shape the “narrative” of the race for the home stretch, events in the financial world have pushed everything else aside, according to a new FOX News poll.
The recent crisis in the nation’s financial markets—and the subsequent government relief efforts to address it—have left nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) rating the country’s economic conditions as “poor.” This represents a 36-point jump in that reading since October of 2007. And, about the same number (62 percent) think the worst of the financial crisis is yet to come.
This pessimism on the “macro” level is translating to the “micro” front as well. Almost six in ten voters (57 percent) say they are “just able to pay most bills”—while another 17 percent say they are “falling behind” economically. Less than one-quarter of voters (23 percent) describe their personal financial situation as one of “getting ahead.”
In December of 2007, 41 percent saw themselves getting ahead financially. Nearly half of all voters (47 percent) believe that the stock market will be lower or the same a year from now and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) feel home values will be lower or the same twelve months down the road.
Moreover, 32 percent of voters are “very confident” about their own personal financial future and 37 percent feels the same way about their future job security. On longer-term concerns, about one-quarter of voters (26 percent) express a high degree of confidence in the safety of their retirement funds.
Both President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson made reference to declining levels of confidence in the nation’s economic system as a reason to act swiftly on a financial rescue plan. Our poll tends to bear out these concerns.
In fact, a majority (54 percent) thinks the fundamentals of the nation’s economy are not strong—at odds with the recent pronouncements of Senator McCain. And, remarkably, only 8 percent of voters feel “very confident” about the U.S. stock market, with 48 percent either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” in Wall Street.
On the rescue plan itself, Americans are divided. A slim plurality (45 percent) opposes the so-called “bail-out” of bankrupt financial institutions, while a substantial 41 percent support it.
But even voters acknowledge that this is not exactly an “informed” position—as a scant 12 percent admit to understanding the current crisis “extremely well.” Interestingly, a plurality of voters classified as “investors” support the plan (48 percent).
Along partisan lines, only Republicans show support for the bail-out—and by a scant 1-point margin at that (43 percent to 42 percent). When asked to assign blame for the current financial crisis, voters volunteer the view that all parties are equally to blame (33 percent).
Among those who can single someone out for blame, “greedy” Wall Street executives top the list (20 percent), followed by the Bush administration (17 percent), Congress (14 percent) and regulators (11 percent).
Amidst all of this gloom and doom, there are some rays of sunshine. For example, more than three-quarters of voters (76 percent) still feel confident about making decisions about personal financial investments and more than four in five (85 percent) feel some degree of confidence about their ability to pay their mortgage or rent.
Moreover, a majority (52 percent) feel “very confident” about the stability of the bank where they keep their money. And 28 percent would stash $10,000 in cash in a mattress—with 67 percent opting for the more traditional deposit in a bank.
Also, over seven in ten American voters (72 percent) have not made any changes to their personal savings or investment accounts as a result of the recent financial crisis. In addition, almost half (46 percent) say they own individual stocks or shares in a mutual fund—outside of their 401ks and IRAs.
But it’s clear that the race for the White House has become defined more than ever by the “pocketbook” concerns of American voters.
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp.among 900 registered voters from September 22 to September 23. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.